Sentinel Progress

Time to take off those training wheels

Behind the scenes of any business there is a flurry of activity going on — stuff the consumer never sees — that goes into producing a product.

If executed properly, the public will never know the labor that went into the finished goods.

Newspapers are no different. Readers don’t see the weeks of research that go into an investigative story or the frustration a writer can feel when on deadline and everyone they need to speak to is suddenly “unavailable.”

Readers never see a reporter pound their head on a desk because a TV news station picked up a story they broke with months of leg-work — and then neglect to credit the paper.

In newsrooms across the country, there is a dedicated group of people who work together, day in and day out, to bring you the stories printed on all those pages of broadsheet — this one included.

Some of those people you may know by now: the ad reps who visit your business, the familiar face behind the front desk when you drop off a birth or engagement announcement, the reporter who showed up to photograph the oddly shaped potato you grew in your garden …

But chances are there is one person in the newsroom who you don’t know: the editor.

Patricia Edwards has been the managing regional editor for The Sentinel-Progress for the past half-decade or so and everything that you’ve read on these pages — from features to hard news to obituaries — has her fingerprints on it.

Never heard of her? I’m not surprised.

Other than a rare column now and then and her name in the contact box on page two, she stays behind the scenes — working seven days a week — to ensure her publications roll off the presses and arrive at your door.

She’s my boss, she’s my mentor, she’s my friend and she is most likely reading this column right now — annoyed beyond belief I’m writing about her.

Ha!

But here’s the thing, there’s not much she can do about it: she can’t fire me and she can’t yell at me. Actually, I don’t even think she can refuse to print this … For one, I don’t have a back-up column to take its place (and we can’t very well have a huge hole on the Op-Ed page) and secondly, although it pains me to say it, Friday was her last day.

The first time I met Patricia was when I was interviewing for a reporter position at what was then The Easley Progress.

It was hands down the most intensive and thorough interview I’d ever been through.

At previous papers I had worked for the interview was more of a formality. Chances are if you made it as far as to meet the editor or publisher, it generally meant they liked your stuff well enough to bring you on.

With Patricia, that wasn’t the case. She asked tough questions and took notes as I answered. She made unyielding direct eye-contact and grilled me about everything from “What journalism means to me,” to “What’s the worst story you’ve ever written?”

I had the distinct feeling she already knew everything about me and my writing before I walked into that room and was being tested to see if I would be truthful in my answers.

The interview was exhausting, it was intimidating and I feel sorry for anyone who ever ended up on the wrong side of her keyboard back when she was an investigative reporter — they wouldn’t have stood a chance.

It was so intense that at the end of it all, not only was I not sure if I had landed the job, I wasn’t even confident anymore I was qualified to be applying.

So when she asked me if I had any questions for her, I only had one: “Are you going to hire me?”

Yes, I said that. In an interview.

While probably not the wisest course of action, apparently it worked because, well, here I am.

In my short time working for her I’ve learned more than at any other paper combined. She is, without a doubt, the best boss I’ve ever had. (And no, that’s not brown nosing — just the honest truth.)

Patricia is a newswoman through and through, with ink flowing in her veins instead of blood and a knack for knowing when to chase a story and when to let one go.

In short? She’s a force to be reckoned with and I was privileged to have had the chance to learn from her.

I am a better writer because of her and our paper was better for having her, so the question becomes: what in the world do we do without her?

“What do you mean what do you do?” I picture her yelling at her computer screen as she’s editing this, “You do your damn job!”

As always, I only have one response …

On it, Boss.

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Strickly Speaking

Kasie Strickland

Kasie Strickland is a staff writer for The Sentinel-Progress and can be reached at kstrickland@championcarolinas.com. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not necessarily represent the newspaper’s opinion.